top of page

Abbot Building Receives 2024 Mayor Thomas M. Menino Legacy Award

Preservation Mass is pleased to announce that the Abbot Building in Cambridge is the recipient of a 2024 Mayor Thomas M. Menino Legacy Award.

The Abbot Building was originally designed in 1908 with the Brattle Street Buildings being built in 1894 with Newhall & Blevins as the architect. From early plans and photographs of these buildings you can clearly see the significance of their architecture, Georgian Revival, and their location in the heart of Harvard Square. Aesthetically, the Abbot was destined to become architecture that reflects its origins while continually evolving and creating a sense of purpose and place – a building worthy of preservation.

The team spent a lot of time carefully studying the architecture in the larger community of Harvard Square as well as the two existing historic buildings at the Abbot and the Brattle from a massing perspective as well as details and iconic features from 1908 that had been altered over decades. The goal was to bring the buildings back to their original intended glory while building a new addition that fit in with the existing, while celebrating the historic character of the Abbot and Brattle buildings that bookend the new addition.

There are a variety of design features in this building that make it such a unique project. The careful massing includes an intentional setback on the top floor with glazing and a copper roof that acts like a jewel box, along with the vertical setbacks between the old buildings and new addition. There was thoughtful use of everyday building materials in the new addition such as brick, granite, metal detailing and glazing in the right proportions to honor and complement the historic nature. Unique features such as adding beautiful lush green roofs on the top floor of the addition not just provide smart storm water management solutions, but also provides spectacular views. On the interior, the team made sure to celebrate the existing structure of the Abbot and Brattle buildings and preserve the memorable “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe” sign from NPR’s Car Talk, a small icon of Harvard Square.

A large part of the preservation effort was to connect the two existing buildings with their varying grades and floor levels while stabilizing the original structures and construct a new infill building in the middle without causing disruption. Preservation efforts were a continuous intense process throughout construction as the team discovered existing conditions.

The iconic meaning of the Abbot Building in Harvard Square is far reaching among those who live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and abroad. Because of its several iterations and translations over the many years of its existence, the Abbot has become a place of personal meaning for so many. The corner-facing façade, with its noted design details of a curved glass storefront at this entrance, conjures an instant recall for those fortunate enough to experience this retail space over the years and its varying tenants – an old-time pharmacy, a U.S. Post Office, the Curious George Store, and currently a Starbucks cafe. This small sampling of the tenants inhabiting this space says so much about the longevity of the Abbot and its uses over time.

Commissioned by Edwin Abbot, the building’s initial purpose was for commercial uses within an already busy city block. This original commercial purpose remains to this day, and the architectural preservation of this building and spaces within proves to be an inspiration to others in the field and beyond due to the contextual precedent the building created being one of the few Georgian revival style buildings in Harvard Square. This “type” of architecture and its purpose for mixed-use commerce was replicated throughout eastern city destinations. In addition, the current preservation of the Abbot has been restored to its original character with new thriving commercial tenants serving the needs of this generation.


Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page